Tasmania’s one-month anniversary of reopening borders to COVID | #socialmedia


Peter Gutwein won last year’s state election partially on the claim his government had helped make Tasmania one of the safest places on the planet.

Less than a year on, coronavirus is in the community in large numbers – 7,439 active cases as of Friday. 

Fortunately, hospitalisations are low.

About 93 per cent of Tasmanians older than 12 have had two doses of the vaccine, and more than 40 per cent of five to 11-year-olds are booked in too. 

But the government’s plea that Tasmanians keep calm and carry on is a world away from the stark warnings of 2020.

At a press conference in October, Mr Gutwein said the state was well prepared to open in December, pointing to modelling prepared by UNSW’s Kirby Institute.

The worst-case scenario had the state recording an average of 387 cases a day.

Clearly, Omicron had other plans.

Attendees at the Taste of Summer event were told to wear masks.(ABC News: Maren Preuss)

Some of what has happened in the past month was expected – families have been reunited and tourists have returned to the state.

But even Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff admits the feedback from businesses has been “mixed and varied”, with some popular hospitality venues struggling to stay open or reducing hours as staff are forced to isolate.

The state’s perpetually pressured health care system is under further, serious strain, and an increasing number of aged care homes are reporting outbreaks.

Meanwhile, stressed Tasmanians have taken to social media to get a handle on shifting rules, locate scarce rapid antigen tests and share exposure sites.

One group lists its purpose: “Clearly the government are lacking at updating everybody, so I made this to keep up to date of exposure sites so people are aware!”

There is anger and fear in the community.

The promise was a return to COVID-normal; at a press conference in early December, Tasmanian Health Service secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said: “If you want to enjoy your summer to the max, please get vaxed”.

The few events that have gone ahead have reported relatively low visitor numbers as many Tasmanians choose to stay home.

For so long, the aim was to maintain Fortress Tasmania and the transition to living with COVID feels somewhat sudden.

It’s hard to believe that it was only a couple of months ago that Mr Gutwein locked down half the state and urged the police to throw the book at COVID-positive Tim Gunn after he escaped hotel quarantine.

Just over one month later, the virus was rapidly circulating in the community with the OK of the same leader, who cited high vaccination rates as a key protection.

The fallout for Mr Gutwein – who for so long prided himself on keeping the virus at bay – remains to be seen.

Labor has been cautiously critical, calling for extra support for people and regions in need and clarity on the return to school in February.

The Greens have been far less reserved.

People wearing masks and one person without.
A number of people have tried to circumvent Tasmania’s entry protocols.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

On Twitter, leader Cassy O’Connor has labelled planes “Omicron tubes” and suggested the Premier was perpetrating eugenics by failing to protect vulnerable populations.

On another occasion, she told a government-linked social media account to “GFY” – “go f**k yourself”.

Speaking last week, Mr Gutwein labelled “some of the political discourse … quite disgraceful”.

School is yet to go back, and no child will be fully vaccinated when it does.

Previous modelling based on the Delta strain predicted cases would peak in April.

Tasmanians were warned coronavirus was coming.

Whether its systems are up to scratch – and what comes next – remains to be seen.

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